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 Chilling Effects Clearinghouse > Trademark > Notices > eBay Ducks Trademark Dispute (NoticeID 2385, Printer-friendly version

eBay Ducks Trademark Dispute

September 09, 2005


Sender Information:
eBay and
Sent by: ebay customer support (at request of
2145 Hamilton Ave
San Jose, Califor, 95125, US

Recipient Information:
91755, USA

Sent via: email
Re: VeRO NOTICE: eBay Listing(s) Removed - VeRO Program

To: [private]
From: Add to Address Book Add Mobile Alert
Subject: VeRO NOTICE: eBay Listing(s) Removed - VeRO Program
Date: Fri, 09 Sep 2005 09:12:33 PDT

Dear [private],


We would like to let you know that we removed your listing:

5614387877 XANGO Mangosteen Juice Xanthones Antioxidants Sealed

because a copyright rights owner notified us, under penalty of perjury,
that your listing uses a rights owner's image and/or copyrighted text
without authorization.

We have credited any associated fees to your account. We have also
notified the bidders that the listing was removed, and that they are not
obligated to complete the transaction.

If you relist this or any other similar items on eBay, your account
likely will be suspended.

If you believe your listing was ended in error, or have questions
regarding the removal of this listing, please contact the copyright rights
owner directly at:

XanGo, LLC

eBay is available to answer questions, but since it is the copyright
rights owner that requested the removal of your listings, we encourage
you to contact them first.

For more information on the VeRO Program, and a list of rights owner
About Me pages, please visit:

Thank you for your cooperation.


Customer Support (Trust and Safety Department)
eBay Inc

Form Message
Subject: VeRO Appeal

User Feedback: 352
User State: 01

Topics Safe Trading If Something Goes Wrong...

Item number:[private]

Hello: I don't understand why my auction was canceled. I've emailed "" several times but they haven't responded. I've also read their "about me" page & don't see where I've displayed unauthorized reproductions of copyrighted images owned by XanGo or infringed XanGo

FAQ: Questions and Answers

[back to notice text]

Question: What rights are protected by copyright law?

Answer: The purpose of copyright law is to encourage creative work by granting a temporary monopoly in an author's original creations. This monopoly takes the form of six rights in areas where the author retains exclusive control. These rights are:

(1) the right of reproduction (i.e., copying),
(2) the right to create derivative works,
(3) the right to distribution,
(4) the right to performance,
(5) the right to display, and
(6) the digital transmission performance right.

The law of copyright protects the first two rights in both private and public contexts, whereas an author can only restrict the last four rights in the public sphere. Claims of infringement must show that the defendant exercised one of these rights. For example, if I create unauthorized videotape copies of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and distribute them to strangers on the street, then I have infringed both the copyright holder's rights of reproduction and distribution. If I merely re-enact The Wrath of Khan for my family in my home, then I have not infringed on the copyright. Names, ideas and facts are not protected by copyright.

Trademark law, in contrast, is designed to protect consumers from confusion as to the source of goods (as well as to protect the trademark owner's market). To this end, the law gives the owner of a registered trademark the right to use the mark in commerce without confusion. If someone introduces a trademark into the market that is likely to cause confusion, then the newer mark infringes on the older one. The laws of trademark infringement and dilution protect against this likelihood of confusion. Trademark protects names, images and short phrases.

Infringement protects against confusion about the origin of goods. The plaintiff in an infringement suit must show that defendant's use of the mark is likely to cause such a confusion. For instance, if I were an unscrupulous manufacturer, I might attempt to capitalize on the fame of Star Trek by creating a line of 'Spock Activewear.' If consumers could reasonably believe that my activewear was produced or endorsed by the owners of the Spock trademark, then I would be liable for infringement.

The law of trademark dilution protects against confusion concerning the character of a registered trademark. Suppose I created a semi-automatic assault rifle and marketed it as 'The Lt. Uhura 5000.' Even if consumers could not reasonably believe that the Star Trek trademark holders produced this firearm, the trademark holders could claim that my use of their mark harmed the family-oriented character of their mark. I would be liable for dilution.

[back to notice text]

Question: What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

Answer: The DMCA, as it is known, has a number of different parts. One part is the anticircumvention provisions, which make it illegal to "circumvent" a technological measure protecting access to or copying of a copyrighted work (see Anticircumvention (DMCA)). Another part gives web hosts and Internet service providers a "safe harbor" from copyright infringement claims if they implement certain notice and takedown procedures (see DMCA Safe Harbor).

[back to notice text]

Question: What is the bare minimum of trademark law that I have to understand to decipher this C&D?

Answer: Your opponent should say that your mark is causing consumer confusion or is likely to cause consumer confusion. Or it should mention it's famousness and complain of dilution or tarnishment. (If the C&D does not say this, then no trademark claim may actually exist, and you can rest assured that your opponent is engaging in scare tactics or has hired a highly incompetent attorney). A mark protects more than identical copying, it extends to anything that is confusingly similar, even if it isn't exactly the same.

Functioning in a quasi-magical talisman-like capacity, trademarks designate the source or quality of goods or services. For this reason, the law protects against confusion in the market place by ensuring that marks on the same or similar products or services are sufficiently different. The law also protects famous marks against dilution of value and tarnishment of the reputation of the goods or services on which it appears or the source of those products, regardless of any confusion.

You can roughly assess the validity of your opponent?s claim of confusion by classifying the marks involved. A trademark can fall into one of 5 categories. It can be: (1) fanciful; (2) arbitrary; (3) suggestive; (4) descriptive; or (5) generic. Not all of these varieties of marks are entitled to the same level, or indeed any level, of trademark protection.

A fanciful mark is a mark someone made up; examples include KODAK or H?AGEN-DAZS. An arbitrary mark is a known term applied to a completely unrelated product or service; for instance, for an online book-store cum one-stop shopping site or APPLE for computers. Fanciful and arbitrary marks are considered strong marks and garner substantial trademark protection.

A suggestive mark is one that hints at the product, but which requires an act of imagination to make the connection: COPPERTONE for sun tan lotion or PENGUIN for coolers or refrigerators are examples. Suggestive marks are also strong marks and receive protection.

A descriptive mark, predictably, describes the product: HOLIDAY INN describes a vacation hotel and FISH-FRI describes batter for frying fish. Descriptive marks do not receive any trademark protection unless their user has used them in commerce and has built up secondary meaning. "Secondary meaning" occurs when consumers identify the goods or services on which the descriptive term appears with a single source. In other words, if consumers know that HOLIDAY INN hotels are all affiliated with a single source, then the mark has secondary meaning and receives trademark protection.

Finally, generic marks simply designate the variety of goods involved: for example, "cola" used on soft drinks and "perfume" on perfume are both generic terms. Generic marks never receive any trademark protection; they are free for everybody to use. (Keep in mind, though, that "Cola" on a nightclub is arbitrary, and therefore receives protection).

If your opponent is complaining that you have used the word "bakery" for a bake shop or "car" for a car repair shop, then you can safely guess that the c & d is baseless. On the other hand, if your opponent is concerned about the fact that both of you use of the term "Sweet Pickles" on alpaca sweaters, then the c & d may have some merit.

There are a few more wrinkles as well. Some marks are word marks (text only) and others are design marks (images which may or may not include text). Design marks do not provide independent protectin for the text incorporated in the design. So if the mark is only a design mark, it doesn't prevent others from using the text so long as they don't copy the design elements.

[back to notice text]

Question: What can be protected as a trademark?

Answer: You can protect

  • names (such as company names, product names)
  • domain names if they label a product or service
  • images
  • symbols
  • logos
  • slogans or phrases
  • colors
  • product design
  • product packaging (known as trade dress)

[back to notice text]

Question: What does it mean to take all reasonable steps to protect a trademark?

Answer: If a trademark owner fails to police his or her mark, the owner may be deemed to have abandoned the mark or acquiesced in its misuse. A trademark is only protected while it serves to identify the source of goods or services.

If a trademark owner believes someone is infringing his or her trademark, the first thing the owner is likely to do is to write a "cease-and-desist" letter which asks the accused infringer to stop using the trademark. If the accused infringer refuses to comply, the owner may file a lawsuit in Federal or state court. The court may grant the plaintiff a preliminary injunction on use of the mark -- tell the infringer to stop using the trademark pending trial.

If the owner successfully proves trademark infringement in court, the court has the power to: order a permanent injunction; order monetary payment for profit the plaintiff can prove it would have made but for defendant's use of the mark; possibly increase this payment; possibly award a monetary payment of profits the defendant made while using the mark; and possibly order the defendant to pay the plaintiff's attorney fees in egregious cases of infringement.

Of course, the determination of infringement is actually one that will be made by the court, so a trademark owner is simply using a best guess about whether or not infringement actually has occurred. That best guess may be a good one, based on experience and expertise, or it may be a bad one that doesn't reflect any of the legitimate defenses that might exist. The law doesn't require the mark owner to sue everyone; it just requires the owner to keep his mark distinctive.

[back to notice text]

Question: How does the DMCA affect the first sale doctrine?

Answer: First Sale is an important protection for the public in copyright law. The first sale doctrine permits individuals who buy products containing copyrighted information to choose whether to sell, share, rent or simply give them away. As more information migrates toward digital storage and distribution, copyright owners prefer licensing, rather than selling, copyrighted material. These licensed products often contain technical protection measures that control access and copying. The concern is that the trends toward digital distribution, licensing, and technical locks, coupled with the prohibitions of the DMCA will undermine the protections for the public found in the first sale doctrine.

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